Wiring “Conan”
CreativeCOW presents Wiring “Conan” -- Art of the Edit Feature

The studio taping of "Conan" starts at 4:30 Pacific, and runs in real time. It ends at 5:30, and we have to have everything in Atlanta by 8 PM Pacific time, 11 PM Eastern, when the show starts to air.

Act One can run anywhere from 10 minutes to as much as 18, and is the only one I get to actually watch. I listen to the director, the AD and the tape AD to see if there any camera fixes that need to happen, or note if there are any words that need to bleeped. After that comes a two to three minute break that commercials will fit into when it airs, and the time when I get to work. My goal is to have the edit notes for Act One completed by the time Act Two finishes on stage.

The nine stage cameras are run through a 180x256 Trinix NXT router into the production trailer, and ingested to the Grass Valley K2 Summit server. The system can record six 3D cameras, or four matte/fill pairs, but, using ChannelFlex, we're taking in 12 single-channel feeds. That includes ISOs of cameras 1-9 from the stage, a line cut from the switcher, a program backup, and a recording of the nine-way screen split so that we can see all the cameras at once as reference during the edit. We have 6 ingest crates that allow for the 12 feeds.

As backup, we're recording the program feed of the studio into Edit 2, 3 and 4, leaving Edit 1 available to me to start editing right away. Those program feeds are recorded at DVCPRO HD 1080i/60 at 29.97fps through AJA Kona 3 cards with AJA's VTR Exchange software, to 2TB CalDigit VR drives.

Our third-level backup is nine XDCAMs rolling all the ISOs and the primary line cut in Ingest. The full-resolution files are recorded to Grass Valley's native format, and we work with QuickTime reference movies: 8 tracks of audio, a time code track, an XML file, and a thumbnail, all contained in a folder. File structure on our 80TB K2 SAN can become folder-intensive, so Grass Valley created software called GVConnect, which they developed with Apple. It's basically a Final Cut Pro plug-in that we launch from the Tools menu, or from custom keyboard shortcuts that we've mapped. We then use the K2 Dyno system to control the ingesters and to start managing the media.

I have a template that I've made for the show composite, which already has a timeline that's striped with one-hour drop frame time code, color bars and tone, and a slate with our stage 15 logo on it. When I'm ready to edit in Final Cut Pro, I select the bin I want clips to fall into, and use the GVConnect software to navigate to the clips I'll need.

One of the cool things about the Grass Valley system is that we can edit with growing files. We have access to those clips just ten to fifteen seconds after they have started rolling onto the SAN. We simply do a refresh, and media is added accordingly.


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GV Connect operating inside Final Cut Pro.



Above is a screen capture of Aurora Browser. The crew uses this software to generate proxies of the individual acts of the show for segment producers to screen before making edits. They use the line cut backup or program backup to generate the proxies, so the file for the primary program act isn't being used for anything other than the show composite. This application was another reason CONAN went with the Grass Valley system, as they didn't need to record anywhere but the SAN, and could still have screening proxies available.
Above is a screen capture of Aurora Browser. The crew uses this software to generate proxies of the individual acts of the show for segment producers to screen before making edits. They use the line cut backup or program backup to generate the proxies, so the file for the primary program act isn't being used for anything other than the show composite. This application was another reason CONAN went with the Grass Valley system, as they didn't need to record anywhere but the SAN, and could still have screening proxies available.


PREP FOR PLAYBACK

To start putting it all together, we export a QT Reference movie of the finished Act, hide Final Cut, open-up Quick- Time 7, and save that QuickTime reference movie as a selfcontained QuickTime movie into the Export QC folder on the SAN.

Actually, it's just a QC folder in name only. It's blind to the playback operator until we want them to get it. We'll check before we send it to make sure that all of our effects transferred to the final QuickTime, all the bad words got bleeped, and so on. Once we're satisfied, then we make a copy of that and put it into a hot bin that is being watched by the playback operator's K2 Summit server. The file gets FTPed to his standalone unit, so that he can begin to play it through to TBS in Atlanta.

The steps are: we deliver Act One to the folder. Once it's been copied, we call the playback operator to let him know that it's there. He grabs it. Seconds later, he's calling us back, "Okay, Act One is ready to be played out."


Dan Dome in post
Dan Dome in post.


Meanwhile, our AD is on two separate phone lines, one back to me in Edit One, and one to Atlanta. Once they're ready, Atlanta confirms that they're at speed, and the playback operator starts rolling Act One from his standalone system. Atlanta confirms audio, video, and lip-sync. Since the playout to Atlanta is from the operator's standalone system, we keep working off the SAN without worrying about his bandwidth. Soon after Atlanta receives Act One, we're ready to send through Act Two, and so on. It's only two and a half hours from the time the show ends on our stage to when the show airs.

Knock on wood -- the workflow has been solid.


 


 

Dan Dome, Creative COW Magazine

Dan Dome
Los Angeles, California USA


Dan started in television in 1994 as a tape operator in New York, moving under his father Art's guidance from linear editor to supervisor, and into nonlinear editing. After helping shows like Late Night with Conan O'Brien and Saturday Night Live move to HD workflows, Dan moved to California to become lead editor for The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, before coming to work on "Conan" at TBS. Once there, Dan designed the post facility with Project Integration Manager David Crivelli.


Photos of control room and Dan Dome editing by Christopher P. Heller. Photo of Grass Valley K2 SAN by Dan Dome.








Above is a screen capture of Aurora Browser. The crew uses this software to generate proxies of the individual acts of the show for segment producers to screen before making edits. They use the line cut backup or program backup to generate the proxies, so the file for the primary program act isn't being used for anything other than the show composite. This application was another reason CONAN went with the Grass Valley system, as they didn't need to record anywhere but the SAN, and could still have screening proxies available.
Above is a screen capture of Aurora Browser. The crew uses this software to generate proxies of the individual acts of the show for segment producers to screen before making edits. They use the line cut backup or program backup to generate the proxies, so the file for the primary program act isn't being used for anything other than the show composite. This application was another reason CONAN went with the Grass Valley system, as they didn't need to record anywhere but the SAN, and could still have screening proxies available.


PREP FOR PLAYBACK

To start putting it all together, we export a QT Reference movie of the finished Act, hide Final Cut, open-up Quick- Time 7, and save that QuickTime reference movie as a selfcontained QuickTime movie into the Export QC folder on the SAN.

Actually, it's just a QC folder in name only. It's blind to the playback operator until we want them to get it. We'll check before we send it to make sure that all of our effects transferred to the final QuickTime, all the bad words got bleeped, and so on. Once we're satisfied, then we make a copy of that and put it into a hot bin that is being watched by the playback operator's K2 Summit server. The file gets FTPed to his standalone unit, so that he can begin to play it through to TBS in Atlanta.

The steps are: we deliver Act One to the folder. Once it's been copied, we call the playback operator to let him know that it's there. He grabs it. Seconds later, he's calling us back, "Okay, Act One is ready to be played out."


Dan Dome in post
Dan Dome in post.


Meanwhile, our AD is on two separate phone lines, one back to me in Edit One, and one to Atlanta. Once they're ready, Atlanta confirms that they're at speed, and the playback operator starts rolling Act One from his standalone system. Atlanta confirms audio, video, and lip-sync. Since the playout to Atlanta is from the operator's standalone system, we keep working off the SAN without worrying about his bandwidth. Soon after Atlanta receives Act One, we're ready to send through Act Two, and so on. It's only two and a half hours from the time the show ends on our stage to when the show airs.

Knock on wood -- the workflow has been solid.


 


 

Dan Dome, Creative COW Magazine

Dan Dome
Los Angeles, California USA


Dan started in television in 1994 as a tape operator in New York, moving under his father Art's guidance from linear editor to supervisor, and into nonlinear editing. After helping shows like Late Night with Conan O'Brien and Saturday Night Live move to HD workflows, Dan moved to California to become lead editor for The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, before coming to work on "Conan" at TBS. Once there, Dan designed the post facility with Project Integration Manager David Crivelli.


Photos of control room and Dan Dome editing by Christopher P. Heller. Photo of Grass Valley K2 SAN by Dan Dome.